Defensive driving

Defensive driving – sometimes called planned driving – is about using observation, anticipation and control to help you be prepared for the unexpected.

Make sure you are always in control of your vehicle and drive

  • at the correct speed
  • in the correct gear
  • in the correct position on the road.

You should also drive with

  • responsibility
  • care
  • consideration and courtesy.

Keeping a safe separation distance between you and the vehicle in front will give you time to stop safely if you need to. The weight of a large goods vehicle (LGV) usually means that it takes longer to stop than a car would in the same conditions. See Cooperating with other road users for more information on separation distances.

As you gain more driving experience, your ability to drive safely and responsibly should improve. Remember to keep checking what’s covered in the DVSA’s driving standards to see how you’re improving and where you may need more practice or instruction.

Separation distances

One of the most effective ways of keeping yourself and other road users safe is to keep a safe separation distance between you and the vehicle in front: this will allow you to stop in time if the vehicle in front stops suddenly.

Your stopping distance depends on lots of factors, including

  • the speed at which you’re travelling
  • the road and weather conditions
  • the condition of your vehicle’s brakes and tyres
  • the weight of your vehicle: LGVs usually take longer to stop than a car would in the same conditions.

In good, dry conditions, leave a gap of at least one metre for each mph of your speed or at least a 2-second gap between you and the vehicle in front. Use a fixed point, like a road sign, to measure the time gap between your vehicle and the one in front.

In bad weather, leave at least double this gap; in icy and snowy conditions, your stopping distance could be 10 times as much as normal.

Traffic and weather conditions can affect other road users so be especially aware of others when traffic is heavy or the weather is bad. For example,

  • it might be harder to see cyclists and motorcyclists in bad weather or heavy traffic
  • windy weather might blow them off course.

Allow them extra space in these conditions.


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